Diana E. Backhouse makes her debut on cavalcadeofstars with a great story and a piece of her beautiful artwork created just for us. Double click photo for enlargement.
The White Monk
Janie was delighted that her mother had decided to go on the coach tour to Yorkshire.
Since David’s sudden death, following a heart attack ten month’s ago, Miriam had been a great worry to Janie and her brother, Peter. After their father’s funeral, Peter had returned to his work in Paris leaving Janie to keep him in the picture as she tried to pick up the pieces of their mother’s shattered life. She‘d rung her brother the evening that Miriam had told her that she had booked herself a place on the ten day break. “…Mum has even asked me to help sort Dad’s belongings finally. She wants most of them to go to the Salvation Army. At last, I think she may be coming to terms with losing Dad. I hope so!”
“Oh, Janie, you don’t know how relieved I am. I’ve been so worried about both of you. Has Mum mentioned Dad’s ashes?”
“Not yet. I’ll try and broach the subject when she gets back from her trip.”
During the week following the telephone conversation, Janie and her mother had emptied David’s wardrobe and chest of drawers as well as his desk. In the process, Janie caught glimpses of her mother’s old self as they relived times gone by. From being such an outgoing person, Miriam had completely withdrawn within herself.
David’s old tweed jacket brought back fond memories of the hours he spent in his beloved garden. His driving gloves and flat cap were reminders of his dedication to the MGA which had been his pride and joy. Miriam had to laugh when she came across the lime-green and orange paisley cravat. “Goodness, I didn’t know he’d kept that old thing. Your father was wearing it the day that we first met. I think I’ll hang on to that, Janie, but everything else can go. We’ll share things between the Salvation Army and the new charity shop for rescue greyhounds. You know the one! It’s just around the corner on High Street.”
Laughter and tears proved a good tonic for Janie and she was delighted to see her mother smiling and in relaxed mood.
“We’ll leave your dad’s workshop and let Peter sort through that when he comes to stay in October. He might be able to use some of the tools.”
The sports car, which David had always promised to Peter, had already accompanied him back to France.
Saturday saw Janie waving goodbye to her mother as the motor-coach set off from London on its journey to the North Riding of Yorkshire. She had helped her aboard with her bags—”Goodness, Mother, what have you got in here? It weighs a ton!”—kissed her firmly on the cheek, and stood at the coach station until the bus was out of sight.
The journey was uneventful. Miriam had exchanged a few polite words with the gentleman sitting next to her. She had been thankful that he appeared no more in need of deep conversation than herself. He had passed the journey reading his Kindle e book, while she thumbed through the paperback, that Janie had given her, without really taking in the story.
The first few days of the stay in Yorkshire consisted of visits to York, Scarborough and Harrogate. A group of ladies had tried to draw Miriam into their circle but had given up trying by the fourth day. By then, they had realised that it may be better to back off and leave this quiet person to her own devices. They couldn’t understand why she had come on a coach trip with others if she really wanted to be alone. Never mind, it gave them plenty to gossip about, each putting their own interpretation on what had transpired to make her appear so sad.
Miriam was relieved that ‘the women’s union’ had given up by the fourth day when the coach was due to take them to Bolton Castle and the market town of Masham. This meant she was able to slip away unnoticed to find the hidden ruined abbey that David and she had stumbled upon on their honeymoon.
They had returned on several occasions since. David had loved to visit the many abbey ruins of Yorkshire, particularly this one which wasn’t overrun by tourists like the rest. Miriam loved the way that nature had reclaimed this peaceful spot after the abbey’s dissolution. Ivy and honeysuckle blanketed the old stone and many species of wildflowers and grasses carpeted the ground.
Even though she was by herself on this occasion, Miriam didn’t feel alone.
As soon as she entered within the remains of the gatehouse, she felt a presence. She could almost hear David’s voice as she recalled how much he had taught her about abbey life and the monks that lived within these walls. He had spent hours researching the Cistercian Order learning every detail of the monks and lay brothers who had inhabited this remote monastery observing strict silences and farming the land. He was familiar with their daily routine, knowing what the were and were not allowed to eat. He also knew every stitch of the Cistercian habit made from undyed wool from the sheep that grazed the surrounding lush grassland. This led to them being called the ‘White Monks’.
“Are you sure you weren’t a monk in a previous life, David?” she had teased him on one of their more recent visits.
“If I hadn’t met and fallen in love with you, My Love, I might have gone to France and joined the Cistercian Order there.”
“So I’m to blame for you not following your dream then, am I?”
“I’d have given up any dream to follow you, Miriam. Anyway, if I’d become a monk, there would have been no MGA and I’d have missed out on being father to Peter and Janie.”
A rustling noise nearby broke into Miriam’s thoughts. Somehow she wasn’t surprised to see the white-robed figure. Then she heard David’s voice again, “It’s nearly 6pm. Hurry or we’ll be late for Vespers.”
When Miriam didn’t return to the coach and couldn’t be reached on her mobile phone, the police were informed. They, in turn, contacted Janie to ask if she could think of anywhere where her mother might have gone.
When they found her, she lay in the ruins of the Chapter House beside the empty casket that had contained David’s ashes. At first it was thought she was asleep as she looked so much at peace. The results of the post mortem were inconclusive. Her heart had simply stopped beating, leading to the judgement at the inquest that Miriam had died of natural causes.
When Jamie and Peter made the journey to Yorkshire to scatter their mother’s ashes in the ruined abbey, they were neither surprised or frightened seeing the ghostly figure. A painting of the white-clad figure of a Cistercian monk had lived on the wall of their sitting room as they had grown up.
What they didn’t see was what Miriam had! As the White Monk reached out to her and turned his head towards her, she had looked into the face of David, her husband.
Diana E. Backhouse is a Yorkshire lass who writes to escape although she is never quite sure what or who she is trying to escape from. She can often be found hanging out on 6S
and recently one of her nonsense poems appeared on mudjob.blogspot.com.